tv Deutsche Welle Journal LINKTV March 14, 2013 11:00am-11:30am PDT
we begin in laos, southeast asia's only landlocked country. a long history of isolation has protected its natural sources and ingenous cultures. laos today is beginning to court the global economy rough e sale ofydelic power. weskosan achieve sustaible delopment, generang ecomic growth of its indigenous tions wd its natural environment. the mekong river traces an 1,100-mile path through or along the border of laos. the river has also been a barrier between laos and its neighbors. now there is a road, where before there was none. in 1994, the friendship bridge gave laos its first land link with the outside world, through thailand to the west.
the bridge may symbolize a connected future, but laos in the here and now remains among the poorest countries in the world. ( rooster crows ) it is the least developed country in the lower mekong basin. life expectancy is low, about 53 years. ( rooster crows % of cn e maourished. the potential changes brought by economic development are enormous. the soil here is rich and fertile. laos remains a largely agrarian society. lowland peoples practice wet rice farming.
the capital, vientiane, has a population of just half a million. the rest of the 5½ million laotians are spread over 155 million square miles of land. it'she seconlowestpulaon da aand the least urbanized country squin the region.and. around laos lie the developing economies of thailand, china, vietnam and cambodia. the north of laos is almos entirely mountains, covering 70% of the country. much of its western border is defined by the mekong river, a tural barrier to trade. the friendship bridge breached that barrier. narrator: somphavan inthavong is in the power business.
he was an engineer on the first hydroelectric scheme built here in 1951. to him, these rugged mountains and flowing waters are a pot of gold. laos produces far more electricity than it can use. the surplus, approximately 80% of the power generated, is sold to thailand at a profit. the dream is on a grand scale: laos emerging to the world on an electricity-led boom. inthavong: narrator: the hydroelectric business could make enough money to power the improveme ofheconomy and e stanrdf living her narrator: the but laos can't payness coufor constructiononey of the dams and generators.
traditionally, around the world, dam construction took the form of massive public projects-- grand symbols of national development, like egypt's aswan dam. but laos is following a new model-- privatization. woman: globally, there's a trend towards privatization of water resources, and in laos this is taking the form of hydroelectric power generation. not only is laos able to export electricity in and therefore earn hard currency-- which is necessary for it to be involved in the global economy-- but also, since the government of laos doesn't have the resources necessarily to develop large-scale hydropower electric dams, the... it's being increasingly carried out by private corporations. narrator: this private development is carried out through something called a "boot scheme," which stands for build-operate-own-transfer.
fox: a private corporation will build, operate, own a hydroelectric dam for a specified number of years, and then at the end of that time when they've recouped an agreed-upon profit, they hand it back to... hand it back over to the lao government. narrator: it's hoped that further hydroelectric development will provide the money needed to lift laotian living standards. the government wants to reduce poverty from 40% to ten percent by the year 2010. but it is a dauntingask. the lao economy remains largely agricuural b80% of the population is rural. only limited industry, such as cotton or silk, has begun in vientiane. literacy rates are among the world's lowest. health care is another area of concern. although immunization programs have reduced the threat of measles,
infant morliromother diseh ersethere's a very low immunization coverage-- have reduced the threat of measles, around 30%, on the national average, and this is the... is the lowest in asia, and there's only a few countries in africa that are lower. the children are dying primarily of malaria, diarrheal diseases and upper respiratory infections. narrator: for most people, the only fresh water comes from wells. ironically, in a country that exports more electricity than it can consume, only is connected totheuralo the electric grid. this situation reflects an urban bias. fox: an important critique of dams is that they serve urban areas more so than rural areas. so, for example, many of the dams in laos will be selling energy to thailand
and that will go to bangkok. and, ironically, often people who are displaced by dams or who are impacted in some way in the rural areas will not see the benefits in terms of electricity. narrator: displacement of people living in areas targeted for dam construction is only one fact of hydroelectric development, whether privately or publicly funded. fox: all around the world, tens of llions of people have been displaced by large-scale dams. in laos, it does disproportiotely impact ethnic minorities who live in the highland areas where the dams are being built. so they're resettled away from the reservoir areas and they're also resettled away from the mountains and highlands above reservoirs. narrator: anotr oblem with resettlement in laos isacy ofamar os wasaughinssbombed e ail. x: 9 millions oorance droppedn os
ianmuchf itains inanca unexpde. so when people are resettled example from highland areawheren to midr a lowland area where they must grow wetice ianmuchf itains inanca unexpde. so when people are resettled eor some other unfamiliar crop,n not only might they be exposed to unexploded ordnance, but if peoe need to sulement their food source or their income because they're unfamiliar with the techniques required to grow lowland rice, they may return to forests as familiar sites. anese are aces ilaos that tend have veryigh levelsf unexoded ordn. rrator: there are s people here continue to depend on seasonal floong along e mekong river for their food production and livelihoods.
dams even out the flow of water, creating problems for people practicing flood-recession agriculture. so during the dry season, the banks are exposed and people grow all sorts of vegetables on them, and during the wet season, they're inundated and silt sediments are deposited on the banks. so a hydroelectric power dam would essentially eliminate that agricultural landscape. narrator: laos is not a democracy. even if local people wish to protest the elimination of their landscapes and lifestyles, even if local people they have few options. fox: geographers might think of them as "powerless place," and these corporations, in a world of globalization and global finance, might be thought of as "placeless power." and when those come together in time and space, it can have perhaps some unprecedented geographical impacts.
i think the question needs to be... needs toe aske is this a viable long-term development strategy? will it... in 30 or 40 years, will these dams still be generating enough electricity to produce significant revenues, and even though it may increase the total g.n.p.-- or gross national product-- of laos, how will it actually impact people. narrator: but for now, laos's plans for engagement in the global economy are focused on exploiting its water resources and overcoming its geographic isolation by developing its transportation infrastructure. new roads are anned to link china and thailand with seapos in vietnam. suthernd: the country's going to open up very quickly, and that's going to bring a lot of good to the country. but there's also a danger that it will bring a lot of influences, particularly from thailand, that are not so good.
fox: thailand and laos are sort of analogous to the u.s. and canada. the cultures seem very similar, but thailand is very dominant in a way that the u.s. is very dominant, and there is anxiety among the laos. they want to be like thailand in many ways, but are also fearful of the influence of thailand. and you can see this, for example, in something like the spread of hiv/aids, which is a very serious problem in thailand, and one that the lao government is, you know, anxious to deal with before it becomes a serious problem in laos. narrator: for some laotians, the pull of the global economy is irresistible. inthavong:
i think it's a question of trying to make the best of that change-- to take the good things and leave the bad aside. and it'll be interesting to see whether the social development can keep pace. fox: laos is a country that has many possible futures. it is a country that still has pristine forests and free-flowing rivers. laos is a country that may be able to structure its development in a way that is truly sustainable-- development that actually leads to an increased standard of living, but not at the expense of the environment, or of a very special and distinct culture. inthavong:
narrator: although its history and geography have long isolated laos from its neighbors and the world, today it is increasingly connected to the global economy. as it generates growth through the sale of hydroelectricity, the need to build more and more dams may put local cultures and biodiversity at risk. the question of sustainable development in laos remains. with increasing global connection, who will hear the local voices? in the region of southeast asia and south pacific, vietnam is a country whose name is forever etched in the american psyche. today, this determined nation is steadily coming to terms with its war-torn past and is experiencing rapid economic growth. here we explore how vietnas pe to iconomic delot,
the sht om collectiv coml cult and the grow of urban centers like ho chi minh city. abundant water and the silt that's been deposited here over thousands of years makes the mekong delta one of the most fertile regions on earth. ( speaking vietnamese ) translator: i grow three crops of rice a year. each yields about 1,20kilograms-- a total of 3,600 kilograms a year. when the price is good, i sell this rice, rrator3,0 kilograms0 but if the price is not good, pounds, is a respectable yield. improved agricultural practices have steadily increased rice output.
when the mekong river enters vietnam, it fans out the delta land is ideally suited foto growing rice. yet in the late 1970s,ietnam was onhe verge of mine. translator: i grew only one crop a year. because there was no irrigation, there wasn't enough water to grow more than one crop. so we didn't pcenough. atorlangomed byaywaed. changes since then have turned vietnam ieffective irrigation so rgesland management and accesthe benefits ofets arits physical environment.e
before 1988, rice in vietnam was produced by collectives. individual farmers had little responsility for their land and virtually no incentive ( man speaking vietnamesei)y. translator: in the collective system, faers are just hired hands. everything they produce becomes the collective's property. the collecti then triesto sele e to pay the farmers according narrator: in the 19d "contract system" was installed. the collectives were disnded, reinstating the individual farmer as tinchpin of rice production. translator: in the contract system, the farmers profit from whatever they produce;
they're wholly entitled to the fruits of their labor. narrator: the move from collecveo commercial farming also created another success story. the hill country to e rth, between hué and saigon-- or ho chi minh city-- is a perfect climate from where to growofe. narrator: vietm is now theor's second biggest pducer, coffee outt re justw s the powerl. aect e global price. coffee is one of the most is traded on a global scale and does represent an opportunity for the vietnamese to earn a lot of export dollars. vietnam has ideal growing conditions for a number of very important, and in terms of being able to produce desirable export, agricultural exports, it really has a very important comparative advantage that way. narrator: farmers like le van than still don't own land.
they're given land-use certificates, guaraneing a farmer's right to use the land. these ghts arealidfor at l. fas op but now it's done on a commercial basis. when le an needs a tractor, hires o from his neighbor. in peak periods, he employs outside help. dueach village usuallyasre a machine for husk removal. but often farmers decide to sell their grain to a larger mill that serves a wider area. he, too, policy has changed. once, all of these mills we.
now many, like this one, are in private hands. it's highly efficient; very little is wasted. grain dust is fed to pigs. these husks are used as fuel for cooking. the rice is moved to market in aumber of ways. the mekong delta has a well-developed road system built by the french when they controlled the country and extended by americans during the vietnam war in the '60s an'7 along with the use of road transport, vietnam hasice a vast network of canals-- more than 11,000 miles in all. given that water is so plentiful in the mekong delta,
it seems ironic that when le van than began farming, he and his fellow farmers suffered water shortages. translator before 1978 here, we only grew one rice crop. from 1979 on, thanks to irrigation, we could grow two crops. narrator: sbetter irrigation madecro. the increase possible. but getting water from the rivers to each rice field at the correct time requires extensive organization. ( man speaking vietnamese ) translator: to bring water into the paddies, there are two ways that work. one is the state-owned system with the large pumping stations. we invest money for those stations.
the other way is that some households can do the pumping themselves or they can googether with other families toorm group of peoe for pumping water in the paddies. this is the chf townin le an's. most of its 100,000 people are involved in some way this is the chf townin le an's. in the rice growing system. farmers come here to buy suppls such as seed and fertilizer and new machinery. (ducklis peeping) progressive farmers are also integrating otod- or incomproducing activities into eir la
translator: pin addition to working in the rice fields,ing we keep some farm animals-- chickens and pigs-- and we have a fish pond. compared to rice growing, animal husbandry is better. rice profits depend a lot on markeuctuation. sh and meat prices depending, animon the market, too,ter. noas much. naator leor it is the most denselyg, poputed area of vietnam,er. the city embraced the so-called "on door" policyeople. introduced by the governmentn 1986 to stimulate the economy. daniere: ho chi minh city is the economic center of the country. hanoi is the potical, cultural, bureaucratic cente of the coury,
located thousands of miles away. building on its history of an economic center, saigon-- a ho chi minh city-- has reemerged as a flourishing place to conduct capitalis globalization business. a mber of very large muinatnal corporat, for example, have located in aund ho chi minh city anemploy hundreds of thousands of vietnamese toork in their factories. vietnam has tried to encourage partnerships with vietnamese state-owned enterprises and private multinationals to set up jointly owned factories. shoes, clothing,ais, chemicals, radios-- i mean, you name it, th're doing it. narrator: ho chi minh city is the ricei.
rice from the provinces arrives at places like the bi tay mill. in 199t became the first mill in vietnam to supply rice to the united states, where this shipment is headed. other shipments goe to the middle eastates, and elsewhere in asia. daniere: it's a wonderfully located city in terms of export potential. it's ideally located to ship things in and out. narrator: vietnam has successfully transformed its rice industry by establishing clear rights of control over land,
by making effective use of irrigation and by ensuring ready access to world markets. anrhaps stmporntly, it's due to e rts of farming families like le vathan's they are chaing a long history of rice farming in the mekong delta. now they are not only feeding vietnam, but helping build a major sustainable export industry. vietnam has been one of the most rapidly growing countries of the last decade. we see this in the booming urban center of ho chi minh city. one key to this development has been vietnam's physicaleography, along with a shift from collective to commercial agriculture.